This car, and brand, has a solid reputation for: comfort, quality, and luxury. I however, never cared for this Lexus nor the ES300 because I just thought it was a hopped up and pretty version of a Toyota Camry. Boy was I ever more wrong.
My story with this car started when I had too many problems trying to share a car with my dad because my sister took my 1999 Toyota Camry. I have a busy schedule - multiple jobs and school, so I am rarely home and constantly on the road. Finding a time slot available for me to take the Honda Passport we were sharing, to go out and do my business, was becoming increasingly difficult. Not to mention, my dad had a knack for being late on returning the car. So, I was on Cragislist 24/7 looking for a reliable and smart choice as my first car. I had searched and researched the reviews on all potential candidates (this website is great for reviews by the way). The Lexus ES300 of this generation was my first choice, the problem was finding a good example that was good according to my standards. Roughly 4 months later, I found one that was acceptable. Owners had supposedly maintained the car, its been garaged, and it had lower mileage than the Camry I was about to buy.
Long story short, with one text, led to me seeing and handing over $5,000 in cash. So, how is the car? It rides great! I mean, it's supple, it's buttery smooth, and yet, it still corners well. This car surprised me with how fast I can take it around a bend. Oh, and it's quiet too, of course. As a matter of fact, I'd have to say, this is the best riding car in terms of comfort and performance (for what it is) I've ridden in.
The acceleration is plenty (has more torque than top speed). The previous owner loved bragging to me how she could take it to 100mph and still have room for more. It's no drag racer, but for daily driving around town, its got enough to dodge traffic with ease. The transmission, is so smooth. Well, I take that back. It was smooth, but after I did a transmission flush, it is butter smooth. Brakes are well, good. Not much I can say since I'm not taking this car to the track to test its limits. Steering is direct, but smooth and light. Not too light though, not like newer Toyota's where it feels like there's no resistance, the ES300 has the perfect feel for daily driving around town (or freeway too) all while giving great feel. Interior wise, for its time, just oozes quality. I mean, the wood trim is beautiful, the controls are solid, and nothing feels cheap. Except for the cup holders. Coming from a previous Toyota Camry of same generation, this is worlds apart in terms of handling and quality. I've spent time in a 2008 BMW 3-Series, and truthfully, my 2001 Lexus ES300 feels higher quality (everything is solid, not loose), looks higher quality (materials), and will last longer. Almost forgot, gas mileage. Now from my calculations, I'm getting a combined figure around 18.5mpg, not exactly great by today's standards. Although, I live in a city where things are closer, so the last time I filled up, was a month ago! Under smooth driving of course.
What started off as just a smart choice for a A-to-B car, turned out to be a car I love so much and grew a new found love for Lexus and their engineering excellence.
Awesome side note: my first 2 weeks of ownership, I kept getting compliments from friends, family, even strangers on how nice my car is! Just last week of the time of this writing, a person walking downtown told me I had a nice car. Not bad for a Lexus from 2001, huh?
I've now had some good time with this car under my belt. I've pushed it to its limits now. A few quick points:
1. I've discovered the braking limits of the car (70 to 0 in rush hour). The car brakes well from about 45mph, but at 70, the car struggles to shed off speed for an emergency stop. That's not to say it failed me, as the braking capabilities did stop me from an accident, but it could be better.
2. Fuel economy is still okay at best. With me driving it 5 days a week at 70mph, I fill up every 3 weeks if I don't go out on the weekends.
3. Ride quality has dramatically changed ever since I installed new shocks. It feels like a sports car now, really. It's much stiffer and can handle corners even better! I notice the small bumps and cracks in the road now and steering feel has gotten sharper.
4. Although I can seat people in the back, the car's performance suffers greatly. I can definitely feel the difference with the extra weight. The last time I had 3 people in the rear (plus luggage) and going up my slightly inclined driveway, the rear dragged down enough to scrape the exhaust or something. Ouch.
5. Snow performance is great. I was driving in a snow storm that stopped even trucks and buses, but this little Lexus just kept putting along (with careful driving).
I wanted to follow up on my ownership experience; My previous post was listed by "W." and posted on 4/26/10. After having purchased this car back in Oct. 2009, it still runs beautifully and has not left me stranded once. I have put almost 40,000 miles on the car (now @ 136.5k miles) since my last post, and I still love it! I use my car for courier work (lots of stop and go driving), and it never hesitates. I had an O2 sensor replaced, which ran about $300; other than this one repair and basic upkeep (tires, oil changes, brake pads, tune-up), this car has been the most reliable vehicle I have ever owned. I recommend high-mileage rated synthetic oil to keep the engine at peak performance.
Woodgrain Steering wheel, Coach Edition trim (which includes upgraded perforated leather seats among other lovely extras), excellent stereo, heated seats, decent acceleration, saavy traction control system for a car made in 2001, side air bags (luckily, never used), auto daytime-nighttime mirror, smooth and comfortable ride... I could go on forever about the creature comforts, but my most favorite feature is the reliability; all the work I've had done to the car in terms of maintenance and repairs combined over 42 months of ownership is still significantly cheaper and more cost-effective than one single repair cost on my former 1997 Mercedes C230 (to be fair, the 'Benz was four years older).
My biggest grievances would be the poor gas mileage in the city and the fragile cupholders. Some older Lexus models have issues with the clearcoat deteriorating, and sadly mine is no exception; however, I used this in negotiations to land a better deal and it's merely a cosmetic issue (it doesn't really bother me considering the car is now over 12 years old). As I stated in the previous post a few years back, these issues have already been addressed by Toyota/Lexus with their newer models. The paint issue can be addressed by using premium cleaning and wax products (Turtle Wax "Ice" car wash soap and liquid wax seems to work very well, and is more cost-effective compared to a new paint job).
Excellent car. To improve the lousy cup holders, go to a Sprinkler Irrigation Store and buy a plastic Green Atrium Grate for a 4" drain pipe (about $6). Get the green grate, not the black grate (better fit for cups) then spray paint it black. It fits perfectly in the existing cup holders. It even has a lip that secures it to the lid of the armrest. You will think it was made specifically for the 97 - 01 ES300. Now back to the rest of the car ... amazing ride, great freeway gas mileage, quiet, excellent standard sound system, comfortable, adequate power. Mine has low miles, 48,000, and I suspect it will be a typical Lexus and be trouble free as my prior Lexus purchases have been.
I just bought the 2001 ES with very low mileage (55K) in near showroom condition. I was driving a 1994 ES that was a superb car, but I was ready for one a bit newer. This car is awesome. It's looks fool you into thinking it's ultra sedate and staid, but when pushed this car will surprise you in it's strength and agility. I bought it because I was already familiar with the quality of Lexus. I could have bought an even newer model, but I really liked the clean lines and angular body style of the '00 and '01 years more than the newer '02 to '06 models. It's a vehicle with understated elegance that performs remarkably well. I'm enjoying every moment driving it.
Audio/CD system; Wood Steering wheel; Auto-Headlights; Auto Up and Down Windows; Seats/Leather are like butter. The hidden power in the engine always delights.
Needs stronger cup holders; need to be able to turn off the Auto Volume Leveler feature on stereo. Other than that - this car is as close to perfect as I've found.